The University of Arizona

Radiocarbon Reveals the Age of Two Precious Tombs in the Etruscan Site of Populonia-Baratti (Tuscany)

C Scirè Calabrisotto, M E Fedi, F Taccetti, M Benvenuti, L Chiarantini, L Quaglia


The archaeological site of Populonia-Baratti, in the southern part of Tuscany (Italy), was one of the most important centers in ancient Etruria, as seen in the evidence of metallurgical activities carried out at that time. During recent archaeological excavations (2005) in the ancient industrial area of Populonia, along the Baratti beach, 2 interesting tombs were found. The 2 graves were unusually located in an area dedicated to metallurgical activity and showed a particular structure of the burial chambers and an extreme richness in the grave goods. The unique character of the 2 tombs prompted many questions: who were these 2 individuals (a woman wearing many jewels and a tall, vigorous man) and when did they die? In order to obtain useful information about the chronology of the 2 tombs, accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon analyses were performed on samples taken from the ribs of the 2 skeletons. Measured 14C ages were converted to calibrated ages using additional information derived from stable isotope ratios measured in the extracted collagen. Actually, the 13C data provided useful hints about the diet of the 2 individuals, thus allowing us to estimate the percentage of marine food consumed (about 30%) and exploit a combined marine-terrestrial calibration curve. As a result, the age of the 2 individuals can be dated to the 2nd century AD, during Roman times, which is in good agreement with the information obtained from archaeological, anthropological, and stylistic studies of the 2 tombs.

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